Vets and Trainers call VA service dog cuts a mistake
By: Chris Cheng
KILLEEN – The Department of Veteran's Affairs plan to cut funding for service dogs to vets with PTSD and other mental disabilities is not sitting well with many people in the community.
"I can't understand why you wouldn't give someone the resources to recover when you have the tools there to do it," Jason North said.
North is a vet who was lucky enough to get a service dog, free of charge thanks to the organization Patriot Paws.
He said his service dog, Parole, has been like an extension of him and an invaluable asset to his life.
"We do everything together. It makes a lot of things a lot easier.
Going everywhere doing anything," adding "He always keeps me busy, he helps me pick up the house all the time, helps me with Haley, he's like another part of the family," North said.
North suffers from epilepsy, as well as PTSD, but is able to overcome those challenging moments thanks to Parole.
"He's helped out tremendous; we are indebted to this dog a lot he's helped with two seizures already," North said.
Understandably, he wants other veterans to be able to receive the same care but most dogs cost anywhere between $25,000 and $50,000.
That high ticket price makes the VA's decision that much heavier.
"Them denying people of service dogs, that is sad. That's like saying when someone's broke their leg but we're not going to give you a brace to fix it," North said.
But North is not alone, Patriot Paw's executive director, Lori Stevens, said this will have far reaching implications.
"Think about the statistics on how many soldiers and veterans are coming in with PTSD it's a big deal," Stevens said.
She said North is just one of the many troops who come home and need that companionship to deal with their mental disabilities.
"It's scary because there is so many of them that need it and there are so many dogs that have saved their lives for being there. I have had veterans call me and tell me I wouldn't be alive today with them," Stevens said.
The VA has only released this statement on the issue saying quote:
"Although we do not disagree with some commenters' subjective accounts that mental health service dogs have improved the quality of their lives, VA has not yet been able to determine that these dogs provide a medical benefit to veterans with mental illness."
Stevens believes current government studies will provide the VA with the necessary evidence and hopefully change their minds.
"It's sad how we cant work it all out and deal with it but I do believe it will get worked out in the long run but it is going to be a very complicated situation. My recommendation to any veteran is just wait just be a little patient and get an accredited one and the VA will support you," Stevens said.
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